I have no idea who he is, I have no idea what this is about, but I sure do love seeing someone exposing in Barbara Boxer the condescending racism that is a global characteristic of liberal whites:
I have been trying my darndest to ignore Judith Warner’s sleazy New York Times piece detailing the sexual fantasies liberal women are having about Obama. On the list of things I really don’t want to know, this ranks right up there with the nature of Bill Clinton’s underwear. These are presidents, for goodness sakes — statesmen! world leaders! Not Chippendale dancers. Ick.
But aside from the ick factor, there’s something profoundly wrong about the whole article, and that is the way in which Warner and her cronies sexualize Obama and Michelle. This goes beyond the ick-factor I mentioned in the previous paragraph, and moves into the very sick sexual ideas Americans traditionally had about blacks.
Anyone familiar with Southern history knows that black men were viewed as ravenously uncontrolled sexual beings who posed a threat to the purity of all white women with whom they came into contact. Black men were attacked and even killed for the sin of looking at a white woman, as if their powerful black sexuality could float through the air and cause harm without even the necessity of contact.
Black women, too, were perceived in sexual terms. The fact that all American blacks who trace their roots to the slave ships also have white forebears is itself a testament to the fact that white men saw black women as freely available to serve their needs. And to get past the fact that they were raping these women, the white men came up with a story line of the lusty “negress,” hungering for sex at all times. “I didn’t force her. The mere fact that she is black meant that she was (and always is) asking for it.”
With those horrible images in mind, let’s revisit one of the nastier passages in Warner’s little opus:
There was some daydreaming too, much of it a collective fantasy about the still-hot Obama marriage. “Barack and Michelle Obama look like they have sex. They look like they like having sex,” a Los Angeles woman wrote to me, summing up the comments of many. “Often. With each other. These days when the sexless marriage is such a big celebrity in America (and when first couples are icons of rigid propriety), that’s one interesting mental drama.”
It may be rarified and envious, but the above passage is nothing more than a reprise of the old American theme about the sexual ravenous black “stud” and his lusty “negress” partner. That this is true is evidenced by the fact that no other presidential couple — heck, no other political couple or even Hollywood couple — has ever been described in the same way.
In other words, I find this whole article offensive not just because I don’t like Obama, which renders him unattractive to me; and not just because I think it’s inappropriate to the self-proclaimed “paper of record” to chip away at the dignity of the presidency, but also because, no matter how one dresses it up, this whole line of thinking reverts to ugly stereotypical racial ideas about black people’s sexuality.
One of the things that this election most vividly illustrated is that the lockstep political beliefs Democrats envision don’t really exist within their own party: Blacks and Hispanics turned out in droves to help power Obama into the White House, but they were the same demographic that, in California, helped Proposition 8 (the anti-gay marriage Constitutional amendment) win. In other words, while they loved the idea of a minority president, Blacks and Hispanics proved that they are still social conservatives.
We know that’s true in one other major area, too. Blacks and Hispanics do not have the love affair with abortion that white liberals do. Again, they are more conservative.
Blacks and Hispanics are also the ones who should be most interested in a fluid capitalist system. America’s history shows that, absent specific discriminatory laws, American-style capitalism has consistently allowed new immigrants to ascend to the working and middle class within one or two generations — and that was true despite strong social discrimination. (“No Irish need apply.” “Jews not welcome.”) In a fluid system, Irish and Jews and all other immigrant groups simply made their own success and then had the other groups eventually begging to join in.
Likewise, we know from the miserably failed Great Society experiment that a welfare state destroys blacks, as well as other minority and immigrant groups that buy into it. It’s a true opiate, keeping them in a poverty stricken haze supported by small checks. It saps ambition and initiative. It’s like cocaine — a cheap high with the first hit/check, followed by dependence and degradation.
The problem for conservatives isn’t that we don’t have a good message for Hispanics and Blacks. It’s that they won’t listen to us. Everything conservatives say is deflected, twisted and denied. Point out that blacks make greater strides in the Bush administration than they did in the Clinton administration, and you’re told that those blacks weren’t real blacks, they were just Uncle Toms. Point out that blacks made economic gains after welfare reform, and you’re told that systemic racism is still destroying them. Point out that black on black crime, or Hispanic on Hispanic crime, is a scourge, and can best be dealt with by a strong police presence in ailing communities, and you’re told that you’re racist for trying to sic the cops on minorities.
We have so many good messages to give to minorities, but they refuse to hear them.
Funnily enough, C.S. Lewis best described the frustration conservatives feel when trying to communicate to minorities the benefits the conservative political system has for them. As you may know, The Last Battle, which is the last book in the Narnia series, envisions a Narnian Armageddon. During the eponymous last battle, which pitches the forces of good and evil against each other, the dwarfs peel off and form their own coalition: “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”
For many Narnians during this last battle, death comes to them when they are pitched through the door of a dark, dank stable. When the good characters are pitched through that door, they find themselves in a rich, beautiful pastoral environment. The dwarfs, however, when pitched through that door find, not the fires of hell, but simply a dark, dank stable — and nothing anyone does can convince them otherwise:
They [the Dwarfs] had a very odd look. They weren’t strolling about or enjoying themselves (although the cords with which they had been tied seemed to have vanished) nor were they lying down and having a rest. They were sitting very close together in a little circle facing one another. They never looked round or took anynotice of the humans till Lucy and Tirian were almost near enough to touch them. Then the Dwarfs all cocked their heads as if they couldn’t see anyone but were listening hard and trying to guess by the sound what was happening.
“Look out!” said one of them in a surly voice. “Mind whwere you’re going. Don’t walk into our faces!”
“All right!” said Eustace indignantly. “We’re not blind. We’ve got eyes in our heads.”
“They must be darn good ones if you can see in here,” said the same Dwarf whose name was Diggle.
“In where?” asked Edmund.
“Why you bone-head, in here fo course,” said Diggle. “In this pitch-black, poky, smelly little hole of a stable.”
“Are you all blind?” said Tirian.
“Ain’t we all blind in the dark!” said Diggle.
“But it isn’t dark, you poor stupid Dwarfs,” said Lucy. “Can’t you see the sky and the trees and the flowers? Can’t you see me?”
“How in the name of all Humbug can I see what ain’t there? Andhow can I see you any more than you can see me in this pitch darkness?”
“But I can see you,” said Lucy. “I’ll prove I can see you. You’ve got a pipe in your mouth.”
“Anyone that knows the smell of baccy could tell that,” said Diggle.
“Oh the poor things! This is dreadful,” said Lucy. Then she had an idea. She stopped and picked some wild violets. “Listen, Dwarf,” she said. “Even if your eyes are wrong, perhaps your nose is all right: can you smell that?” She leaned acorss and held the fresh, damp flowers to Diggle’s ugly nose. But she had to jump back quickly in order to avoid a blow from his hard little fist.
“None of that!” he shouted. “How dare you! What do you mean by shoving a lot of filthy stable-litter in my face? There was a thistle in it too. It’s like your sauce! And who are you, anyway?”
And so it goes as the good characters try desperately to make the Dwarfs realize that they are surrounded by beauty and plenty, while the Dwarfs can see only darkness and despair. That scene so strongly reminds me of the way in which communications between the two groups are stymied by preconceived notions and prejudice, not about race, but about ideas.
The big challenge in the next few years is to shape conservative communications so that they break through these barriers, and show Blacks and Hispanics that they’re not living in a dank, poverty-stricken Marxist stable, but in a large, bountiful America, in which middle Americans share their conservative social values, and want them to share the nation’s capitalist bounty.
I’m still developing the same theme I’ve been hammering at for a week, because I think it’s important. The ideas in this post should be familiar to you, but I’m trying to express them with more factual data and lucidity:
My mother, bless her heart, said something very important the other day. She said that Europeans are much more socially conscious than Americans and that’s why they have all those government programs (i.e., socialism or spreading the wealth). She was clearly trying to say that Americans are mean and selfish, and that’s why they’ve traditionally leaned to keeping their wealth, rather than allowing government redistribution. She’s completely wrong, of course, but wrong in a very interesting way.
What she neglected to consider with her pronouncement is that, traditionally, America and Europe had vastly different social and economic fluidity. While Europe has had an exceptionally rigid class system from which few escape, America has been since its inception a place in which people can “make it.” Every immigrant group (and such is the nature of America that all but the Indigenous Americans are immigrant groups), has managed to assimilate and rise economically.
Census records from the Lower East Side in New York, through which passed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of immigrants from all over Europe, show that within two generations, all of the families that once lived there had moved into the working, middle or wealthy classes. Certainly, individuals may have suffered and failed but, en masse, the immigrants did well. They didn’t need to become the recipients of perpetual government largesse.
In Europe, however, there were no systems by which the lower classes (and that also always meant the poorer classes) could escape their stratum. Whether by accent, education, poverty, or tradition, they stayed there. (And, interestingly, even the educational opportunities socialism provided didn’t much change that. When I lived in England a couple of decades ago, after almost 40 years of free access to college education, most English people did not go on to college and people still gave away their class instantly just by opening their mouths.) Socialism, in other words, was just a totalitarian government substitute for the old noblesse oblige that saw the upper class (or, at least, the socially conscious ones) take care of the poorer orders, all the while ensuring that they stayed in their place.
The intense stratification of that system continues to exist with the new immigrants to Europe. Whether in Germany, Norway, Sweden, England, Italy or France, these new Muslim immigrants are instantly the recipients of government largesse that gives them housing and money — and that essentially tells them to get into their immigrant ghettos, and stay there, preferably feeling grateful to and voting for the government that was so good to them. Its a shock to the ruling class, and one that they can’t seem to understand, that these immigrants, rather than feeling grateful at being stuffed away into ghettos without any opportunities, loath the countries in which they live, and cheerfully envision their bloody overthrows.
My mother agreed with me on all of these points (how could she not?), but then produced her “a-ha!” to prove me wrong: “What about blacks in America (and, she could have added, Native Americans, too)?” To her, they proved I was entirely wrong in describing America’s social and economic fluidity. To me, though, they were just the extra evidence I needed to prove that when, as they do in Europe, a government provides too much for people, it consigns them permanently to poverty and social exile.
As you know, African-Americans (and Native Americans) differed from all other immigrant groups in America because the American system essentially imposed against them, for centuries (and in brutal and horrible ways) a European style stratification that prevented any upward movement. This is true whether one is looking at slavery, relocation, genocidal wars or Jim Crow. I’ll focus from here on out on what happened to blacks when Americans finally wised up to the error of their ways, but you can tell the same story about Native Americans.
Beginning in the 1940s (with the WWII economy) and continuing into the 1950s (with the Civil Rights movement), blacks started the same upward movement as other American groups. That is, once the nation began removing the artificial ceiling it had imposed on them, blacks too made social and economic strides. The strides were slow, because prejudice is slow to die, but they were real, and they created a rising black working and middle class composed of nuclear families. I have no doubt that, had the government continued to educate and police against discrimination, and otherwise left the market to do its work, African Americans would have joined other immigrant groups in realizing the American dream in a generation or two.
The death knell for this laborious, but real, social and economic ascent was the Great Society. The moment comprehensive welfare programs began (around the mid-1960s), government workers fanned out to black communities all over America and made huge efforts to tell blacks to stop working, because the government would pay for them. White guilt was at its apex, and government welfare was its expiation.
Being rational actors, blacks gave up bad, low-paying, often demeaning jobs for free money. And being rational actors, they gave up nuclear families and parental responsibility for even more free money. And so began the terrible slide of the African-American community. Even if you all don’t remember that time, you do remember what finally arrested this slide and helped put African-Americans back on the same, slow upward trajectory that existed before the Great Society: The fact that Clinton, under duress from a real Republican Congress, ended “welfare as we know it.” Once again, African-Americans, being rational actors, were given the incentive to shelter in the strength of the nuclear family and plug into the American Dream.
Obama wants to undo the American Dream and turn us into a European economy, where all benefits flow from the government, rather than individual effort. You can call it “socialism,” or “big government,” or “spreading the wealth,” or whatever else suits you, but the outcome will be the same: People will be locked into government induced poverty in perpetuity, the middle class will become slack, the economy will enter into stagflation, unemployment will rise, and service in every area of American life will fall as people lose their incentive (because they’ve lost the ability) to rise upwards and join in the American Dream.
(I’ve cross-posted this same article at Bloggers for John McCain (aka McCain-Palin 2008), which is a site that I urge you to visit. It’s committed entirely to advancing McCain to the White House, and has smart, enthusiastic articles about all of the players in the upcoming election.)
The current “scandal” is that a poll shows that one third of white Democrats harbor racist views towards blacks. I have two problems with this poll’s approach and two questions about whether its conclusions have any real meaning.
My first problem is the poll’s underlying assumption, one that reveals entirely the pollsters’ bias: Why the heck isn’t Obama winning because, in pollsters’ minds, he really ought to?
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush’s unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
It doesn’t seem to occur to the pollsters that, as the election draws near, Americans, including Democratic Americans, may actually be looking at issues, not candidates, and may have concluded that Obama’s thin resume is not a helpful antidote to the issues confronting Americans — and that this is true irrespective of either the candidate’s or the voters’ race.
Apparently having dismissed that possibility out of the box, the pollsters, with their assumptions firmly in place about the fundamental abnormality in American’s failure to recognize what a vastly superior candidate Obama is, cheerfully set about using their all new methodology to prove that Americans are racists.
To this end (and herein lies my second problem with the poll results), the pollsters relied on a “unique methodology,” “pioneered” by one company, Knowledge Networks, that thinks it can delve into people’s psyches. First, they used online interviews, on the assumption that people will be more honest in the anonymity of cyberspace, which may well be true.
However, it may also be untrue. Once online, people may feel more playful or obstreperous and be less honest. Who knows? You can only prove people’s honesty if you have an objective measure of the absolute truth. And in opinion polls, what the heck is that measure? We’re in a gray area that sees the pollsters assuming that their own biases about people’s probable beliefs constitute absolute truth, if only the pollsters can arrive at a methodology to prove that fact (in other words, there’s lots of room for bootstrapping and circular reasoning).
If that wasn’t a gray enough area, pollsters delved into an even grayer one, which again uses their own beliefs about people’s biases as the objective truth their psychological evaluation will ultimately prove:
Other techniques used in the poll included recording people’s responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks’ troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.
In other word, they used a technique that many might simply see as a trick. When a Harvard gal first came up with the idea, which was to prove that people’s first, instinctive responses to imagines of different races inevitably proved them to be racist, I wandered over to check it out. What you get is a split screen with images of people and different words flashing. You then have to hit buttons on the right and left side of your keyboard to tie “appropriate” words with equally “appropriate” images.
What I discovered was that, just as I am a word person, I’m very strongly not an image person. I don’t see pictures very well, and quickly got confused. I’m also horrible at hand/eye coordination, or even hand/hand coordination. After randomly hitting buttons a few times, I got bored and stopped. It was as pointless and frustrating for me as a lot of the Wii games or Nintendo games my kids play. Rather than delving into the depths of my evil, racist psyche, it proved only that I lack eye/hand coordination.
Still, since I’m not a pollster or a social scientist or a statistician or someone who assumes that racism is the norm, I’m going to assume for purposes of the next part of this post that the poll is so closely attuned to reality that it can actually catch people shlumping at their home computers in acts of vile racism (blacks = lazy, boastful or irresponsible). Even assuming that, though, I still have my doubts about whether the poll proves that racism will be the problem when/if Democrats turn away from Obama.
To begin with, while the pollsters managed to prove that everybody is a racist (Republican or Democrat), they’ve admitted only that Democrats are so dumb they can’t look beyond their racial preferences, while Republicans are smart enough to be able to examine issues, not race. (And please tell me if the pollsters or the AP writers really meant to make this point?)
Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren’t voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn’t vote for any Democrat for president — white, black or brown.
Second of all — and I know I’m wandering into sensitive territory here — is my suspicion that Americans aren’t racist, they’re “classist” or “value-ist.” Bear with me here as I try to develop this argument.
Historically, racism actually had to do with the genetics of race. Prejudiced whites believed that blacks, merely by virtue of the color of their skin, were inherently inferior. To the mind of the whites who held this attitude, and it’s one with deep roots amongst Europeans and Americans, the mere fact of black skin meant that it was impossible for the person possessing such skin to be intelligent or hard working (and the latter belief was true despite the fact that slavery put those blacks to hard work the likes of which whites never did, unless they were, in turn, unlucky enough to be enslaved by Muslims).
I suspect that things are different nowadays. Assuming American Democrats (oh! and, of course, Republicans) really are every bit as prejudiced against blacks as this study seems to show, I doubt that anyone of them would claim that their prejudicial beliefs are tied to blacks’ biology. That is, unlike your 1850s Southern planter, or 1950s Southern KKK member, no one nowadays would ever say that blacks are, from the womb, lazy or boastful or irresponsible.
What your average American, if taken in a dark closet and promised complete anonymity, might claim is that black culture — which is a learned phenomon — is less appealing to them than white culture. Is it racism to observe that a culture has values that you think are bad? I don’t know.
It’s certainly not racism to approve of a culture’s values. Your average Lefty would be delighted to tell you that the French or Nordic people (Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, etc.) have better cultures than ours. They wouldn’t say that these people are biologically better; they’d say that the values they hand down to each other and put into law are much better than the embittered guns and God culture that characterizes middle America.
Also, is it wrong to say that blacks have a culture? Again, I don’t think so. We’re constantly being bombarded with messages telling us that blacks are a distinct subculture. The whole point of the political correctness that has permeated the American landscape for the last 30 years is to do away with American commonality. We no longer believe in a melting pot. We believe in a chunky (and often inedible) salad, with disparate component parts that, in the PC mind, originate with America’s various “cultures” (racial, religious, sexual, country of origin, etc.), and that cannot be ignored or blended, even in the public square.
The problem, for both blacks and whites, is that black culture (not black biology, but black culture), publicly advances values that are antithetical to middle American values. In my earlier post about false syllogisms, I pointed out that John McWhorter’s wonderful Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America recognizes that part of the black community’s self-sabotage is the refusal to engage in the “white” work ethic of being reliable. I noted the probable false syllogism underlying that cultural attitude: slavery was work, slavery was bad, therefore work is bad.
McWhorter also pointed to the advance Leftist guards of the Civil Rights movement (I guess we’d call them community activists nowadays) who told blacks that, after all their suffering, it was only fair and appropriate that the government should henceforth pay their way. So, while middle and working class America embrace the notion of hard work, substantial segments of the black culture believe (1) that work is a problem, inextricably and negatively entwined with slavery and (2) that it’s only fair that white America should financially compensate them for all the past evils done to blacks.
How about the drug/gang/boasting culture? Yes, whites use drugs in greater numbers than blacks, but that’s because there are greater numbers of whites. Even if that were not the case, in the post-psychadelic drug area, it hasn’t been middle and working class whites who developed an influential music form celebrating the drug/gansta life, it’s been black America that’s done this.
Even if, as many will assure us, gangsta rap represents only the smallest subsection of black culture, it is a huge public face. The complicity of blacks, the music industry (liberal) and Madison Avenue (out of Blue New York) means that whites are deluged with cultural (not biological) images of blacks waving guns, degrading women, and boasting about their prowess, especially when it comes to drugs, violence, and sexual abuse — and they’ve been deluged with these images for more than a decade now. You can’t profit off selling a violent, demeaning image about your own culture, and then wonder why people start believing the stereotypes you’ve created.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Americans also got some bad images of black culture. Significantly, all of these images came from the liberal media which, in its blind, manic rush to destroy the Bush administration, neglected to realize that it were broadcasting the worst type of stereotypes about blacks.
It was the Bush-hating media that said that blacks were eating each other (after only three days without food). That same media frantically announced that blacks were murdering each other (after only a couple of very uncomfortable days in the convention center). The media also shrieked at Bush-loving middle America that, because of Bush, blacks were raping each other (again, after only a couple of days in the convention center). Media’s talking heads blamed Bush for the fact that Blacks were robbing stores and houses to survive.
With a few minor exceptions, all those hysterical stories, meant to show Bush’s both perfidy and his victims, were untrue. Nobody was eaten, nobody was murdered, and I don’t think anybody was raped. The only victims of this mad journalism were the blacks themselves — because a whole lot of white people carried away the message, fed to them by the liberal media, that black culture is so degraded that, in times of crisis, it will turn to rape, murder and cannibalism.
So there are a lot of messages about blacks out there that might lead Americans to view the black culture with suspicion. As observant black commentators have noted themselves, the twin legacies of slavery and the community activists pushing a nanny state Civil Rights agenda is that many blacks view work with suspicion. Viewing it with suspicion, they either don’t do it at all, or do it with poor grace. It’s a cultural thing that may well lead outsiders who haven’t analyzed culture motives to conclude that blacks are lazy.
The perception that blacks are dangerous or boastful also finds probable roots in the modern black culture being sold to white America. Worse, it’s a sales pitch that originates in two liberal American bastions: Manhattan and Hollywood. It’s this liberal America that’s sold us on gangsta rap (boastful and dangerous thugs) and on black violence and helplessness (Hurricane Katrina). Having sold America on these images of a black culture made up of values antithetical to middle class white culture, these same liberal cadres now castigate us for being racist because some of us bought the garbage they were selling.
So do I think Americans are racist? Not really. First, I doubt the value of this novel polling technique, which seems to me to be intended, not to gather information, but to support the pollsters’ own biases. Second, even if the polls is accurate, I don’t think Americans believe that blacks are biologically inferior. I do believe, though, that Americans, both black and white, have been on the receiving end of sales pitches and manipulation, originating in liberal white America, aimed at presenting black culture as one hostile to work, and rife with drugs and crime and a very ugly type of boastfulness.
For many years, I’ve thought that people confuse fairly neutral conduct with bad motives, resulting in false syllogisms. I first came to this conclusion after reading John McWhorter’s wonderful Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America. Although my memories are a bit hazy about the details of the book, I seem to recall reading him bemoaning the fact that part of the Black community’s self-sabotage was the refusal to engage in the “white” work ethic of being reliable.
The message I took away from the book was that the Black community created a false syllogism: Slavery was work and slavery was evil, therefore all work is evil. Merely to state the proposition is to expose how flawed it is. Slavery wasn’t about work. It was about owning human beings and treating them like animals, rather than free agents, who could select their employment and be properly compensated for their contributions. The work of a free agent in a free market isn’t evil. It is, at least as far as I’m concerned, a good thing or, at the very least, a neutral thing.
Another false syllogism is that the Vietnam War was a bad war, therefore all wars are bad wars. Wars are certainly hell, and there have been bad wars, but not all wars are bad. War is part of a human condition, and what matters in determining a war’s validity is the motives of those who fight a given war.
Looking at things from the American perspective, I truly believe that WWII was a good war, and that was despite mismanagement and mixed motives. I believe the Civil War was a good war, and that was despite mismanagement and mixed motives. And I believe the Revolutionary War was a good war.
What made those wars good despite the blood-bath element? The fact that, on our side, the American side, they were being fought to free people, not to enslave them. That a particular post-war period didn’t necessarily see freedom being put into effect as one would wish (especially with regards to slavery in the post-Revolutionary era and Jim Crow in the post-Civil War era) does not change the fact that these wars were fought for the highest human ideal: freedom.
In the same vein, I would categorize the Vietnam War as a good war, since we were trying to rescue Vietnam from the slavery of Communism. That we failed — and we failed mostly because of our own Fifth Column — resulted in those poor Vietnamese and Cambodians being subject to precisely the Communist slavery we sought to avoid.
Another false syllogism is that, because people have killed in God’s name, religion is evil and should be abolished. In fact, as history shows, while people have used religion as a vehicle for their evil motives, it has also been the light shining the way to their greatest good.
Certainly there are things in the Jewish Bible that anti-religious people can criticize: The unfair killing of the First Born in Egypt, merely because Pharoah was stubborn; the Jews’ scorched-earth policy when they first returned to the Promised Land; the harsh prohibitions against homosexuality; and the mandate to kill witches spring to mind.
But overall, compared to the moral landscape in the ancient, pagan world around them, the Jewish Bible was a hugely moral book. Just to name a few examples, the Jews were the first people in the ancient world to limit slavery, requiring that Jews free their slaves after a set number of years. The rules around Kosher food, too, were humane: When the Jews mandated that animals be killed swiftly by having their throats cut (something animal rights activists find horrifying today), they were doing so against a backdrop of ritual animal slaughter that saw animals having their bellies slit open and their entrails slowly removed, while they still lived, so that they priests could read the “signs.” The rule against mixing meat and milk was also humane in intention, because the Jews thought it indescribably cruel to cook an animal in the milk that once gave it life.
And yes it’s true that, in the medieval world, the Christian message was often perverted to allow the powerful to put their enemies to death, whether it was the Spanish Inquisition or the religious wars that convulsed Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Those were human twists on Christ’s words, though, not the words themselves (something that stands in stark contrast to Mohammad’s words, which enjoin his followers to slaughter and subjugate unbelievers).
By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Christianity was paving the way for the freedoms we recognize now: our Constitutional freedoms, which the Founders believed came from their Judeo-Christian God; the abolition of slavery, which was, first and foremost, an Evangelical concern; the end of child labor, another Evangelical concern; and the end of Jim Crow, which also found footing amongst church groups, at least in the North.
In other words, religion is as easily a force for good as it is for evil. Man can go either way, and it is his intentions that determine the use to which religion is put. Religion as a force for good becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with each generation teaching its morals to the next.
It’s worth thinking about this last point when you hear Sarah Palin being taunted as a religious “extremist.” What, precisely, is extreme about her religion? She believes in God, she prays to God, she has the humility to hope that she is doing God’s work, and she chooses a child’s Life over woman’s inconvenience, which is not great for many women, but is certainly the more humane, less pagan/medieval option, etc. The extremist tag comes about because, on the Left, a false syllogism has taken root: Because bad things have happened in the name of religion, religion is bad — and anyone who takes religion seriously is, therefore, bad too.
I bet you can find other false syllogisms permeating Leftist thinking, especially as this political race heats up. As for me, I’m tired and I’ll leave that thinking to you.
Obama was caught during his speech to minority journalists making noises that sounded remarkably like reparations talk:
“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.
“I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it’s Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.”
There was immediate speculation about whether he really meant to have the US pay reparations, not to still-living former slaves (since there are none), but to the descendants by several generations of former slaves.
Unwittingly, the New York Times has provided further insight into the answer to that question. In a long article describing Obama’s years teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, this little bit leaped out at me (and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if I hadn’t first seen this story about the reparations talk):
Mr. Obama was especially eager for his charges to understand the horrors of the past, students say. He assigned a 1919 catalog of lynching victims, including some who were first raped or stripped of their ears and fingers, others who were pregnant or lynched with their children, and some whose charred bodies were sold off, bone fragment by bone fragment, to gawkers.
“Are there legal remedies that alleviate not just existing racism, but racism from the past?” Adam Gross, now a public interest lawyer in Chicago, wrote in his class notes in April 1994.
If Obama had raised that as a hypothetical legal question in the context of an abstract talk about race relations in America, I could conceive of it being a truly open-ended discussion. However, given that he paired it with requiring his students to read about the horrors African-Americans suffered generations ago, it’s easy to see that, lawyer-like, he is pushing his impressionable students to an affirmative answer to the question he asked of them.
James Taranto gives a good run-down of why reparations are a bad idea:
The idea of reparations is highly unpopular, and with good reason. Unlike the Japanese-Americans who in 1988 received compensation for their internment by a Democratic administration in the grips of wartime hysteria, no one alive today has ever been a slave. The idea of the government cutting checks to compensate people for a wrong that they did not personally suffer is unlikely to appeal to anyone except perhaps those who stand to receive those checks.
Taranto goes on to wonder why Obama would be making reparations an issue anyway? African-Americans will vote for him regardless, and reparations are unpopular with anyone else. What Taranto misses is that he provided the answer in the material I quoted above: it’s about receiving checks.
To the extent that Obama seeks to raise taxes, not to fund the government (whether for popular or unpopular initatives), but instead to redistribute wealth a la the Communists, reparation is yet another tool in that arsenal. That is, it’s not about race qua race, it’s about painting a sympathetic victim face on a socialist wealth grab.
(This is the first in what I hope will be a series of very civil essays examining marriage. Suek got me started with this idea based on a comment she wrote saying that, well, we need to figure out what marriage is all about. Planned future essays will involve separating the religious aspect of marriage from the civil strand, examining polygamy and polyandry, the effect of feminism on marriage, the Hollywood culture and marriage, and, possibly, the economic benefits that flow from marriage.
I am not writing these posts to oppose gay marriage. I am writing them because I still want to do what the courts have prevented me from doing: I want to take a good, analytical look at our social institutions and determine how proposed changes will affect them. The changes may be good, bad or neutral.
Please do not take this post as an opportunity to engage in attacks against gays or even against gay marriage. On the other hand, please do use this post as an opportunity to give your views about the core nature of marriage in American society.)
Long-time readers know that I tend to be suspicious of Democratic initiatives that start off with something being “about the children.” Illegal immigration should be allowed because it’s about the children of illegal immigrants. The corollary is that deporting illegal immigrants should be disallowed because it’s about the children of illegal immigrants. Socialized medicine should be created because it’s about the children.
For every Democratic initiative, children are the wedge. If you’re against the Democratic viewpoint, you’re obviously a monster who is against children. This is not reasoned argument. This is emotion-based demonization of the political opposition, and I don’t like.
Some things, however, really are about the children, because children are central to the issue. I’ve been worried — not adamantly opposed to, but worried — about gay marriage because I’m unclear whether its existence, which takes marriage away from its procreative function, will affect the children.
I’m no fool, of course. I know that not all heterosexual marriages result in children. Heck, I don’t even know if half of the heterosexual marriages end in children. However, I’m firmly convinced that the heart of marriage, going back into the dim recesses of pre-recorded time, is about a man’s ability to recognize his own children without a DNA test.
Marriage, regardless of the society or the time in which it was created, either gives the man an assurance that the child from his wife’s body is in fact his, or it forces him to accept that child as his (placing on him the burden to police his wife’s access to or desire for other men). This worldwide, time-long societal construct, which has men either know that a child is actually theirs or be forced to pretend that it is, places on men an overriding obligation to provide for that child, so that the state doesn’t have to.
The socialist state, of course, flips that pattern on its head, by substituting the State for the father. (Just the father, not the mother, because of the direct biological connection of pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.) We’ve now seen “the socialist state as father” play out three times, and none of the results have been pretty.
In America, the test case for socialized fathering, starting in the 1960s, was the African-American community. Up until social workers with the welfare state actively convinced African-Americans that they’d do better to place their faith in government than in African-American men, the community was making great strides. Despite racism in the North and Jim Crow in the South, black families were nuclear and were seeing solid economic progress. Crime rates were only slightly higher than among white families who were similarly situated economically.
Thus, while life in a very- to semi-racist country was not easy, it was getting better. What changed all that was the Nanny State. Well-intentioned social workers, trained in Marxist doctrines of reallocation of wealth, poured into the black communities, and bullied, cajoled and blackmailed families into applying for welfare. And the deal with welfare was that you got more of this “free” money if (a) there was no bread winner and (b) you kept having children. Being economically reasonable people, the women kicked their men out and kept having babies. And being equally reasonable, the men got free sex and no responsibility. Sounds good.
Except it wasn’t good. It was awful. It turns out that men aren’t useful just to bring in the money. Instead, it’s actually very positive to have them around, serving as a role model of male maturity for both boys and girls. Children need those models. And if they’re absent, they’ll start seeking them wherever there is an alpha male. In the ghettos, sadly, that alpha male was likely to be the corner drug dealer or the gang banger — and the latter could hang around being tough because he didn’t have to work to bring home the bacon for his one wife and his children.
As to that latter point — his children — the situation worsened as the women started having children by multiple fathers. When a mom does that, no one father has an interest in providing for that family, since he knows that, even though he may earmark funds for his child, those same funds will inevitably benefit the other man’s (men’s) children as well. In any event, the Nanny state provides, absolving him of all responsibility.
What happened to African-Americans was not some fluke, unique to America. Precisely the same thing happened in England, as Tom Bethell details in an article that discusses myriad areas in which Britain — which has traveled quite far down the path on which Obama wishes to place America — has collapsed. It’s a long and excellent article, with a lengthy discussion about the effect the welfare state has on families. I’m going to quote from that section at some length here, since it so precisely parallels what we in America, with our “Great Society,” did to blacks:
The ruling-class embrace of semi-capitalism has brought about the rise in prosperity, but this has been accompanied by mounting social chaos. One of the main indicators is the rise of family breakdown (or non-formation) and out-of-wedlock childbearing. The key enabler of this change has been the transfer of tens of billions of pounds to fatherless households. Only a society wealthy enough to collect and redistribute revenue on this scale can sustain widespread illegitimacy. Without the tolerance of wealth-creation, redistribution on this scale would not have been possible. Traditional families and moral standards were undermined in consequence.
Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail columnist and a refugee from the left (formerly she was with the Guardian newspaper), wrote recently that the “overclass” has “deliberately and wickedly created over the years a legal and welfare engine of mass fatherlessness and child abandonment, resulting in a degraded and dependent underclass and a lengthening toll of human wreckage.”
A couple of sensational crime stories were in the headlines when I was there, illuminating this “welfare engine of mass fatherlessness.” The rot beneath the surface became conspicuous.
One involved a 15-year-old girl named Scarlett whose hippie mother had taken her to the drug infested beaches of Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the coast of India. The mother then headed off to other Indian beaches with her other children, leaving Scarlett behind. A few days later the young girl was raped and murdered on the Goan beach.
The amazing part of the story was that the mother had nine children by five men, lives in two trailers in Devon, and receives government “benefit” (welfare) for each child, adding up to about $50,000 a year. Having saved about $14,000, she was able to take eight of her children on a six-month holiday to India, and return, sadly, with seven of them.
The mother was shocked to find that the Goan police seemed to be protecting the guilty parties, but then (when the tabloids got hold of the story and ran with it) was even more shocked to find that, instead of being regarded sympathetically, a few residual bluenoses and moralists in England viewed her conduct with some opprobrium.
The second case involved a nine-year-old girl called Shannon who was reported missing by her mother and then found, 24 days later, hiding in the house of one of her numerous step relatives. She may have wanted to escape from the chaos at home, but one of her step-relations was charged with kidnapping. Shannon’s mother, it turned out, had seven children by five different men. The shocking detail in her case was that she referred to Shannon and another of her children, born a year earlier, as “twins.” She actually thought that they were twins because they had the same father.
The truth is that decades of intervention by social engineers who either do not understand the importance of fatherhood and family, or, more likely, think they ought to be undermined, is reducing British society to something barely recognizable.
As for Scarlett’s mother, her “whole lifestyle has been one from which the words responsibility or judgment have been excluded,” Melanie Phillips commented. People have been increasingly encouraged to think “they have an absolute right to live exactly as they want without anyone passing judgment on them.” Further, “our deeply irresponsible overclass has put rocket fuel behind the exponential growth [of broken family life] through tax and welfare incentives.”
Now we have an “N” of two, both showing the devastation the Nanny state creates when it makes fathers superfluous, whether in African-American communities or traditional white British communities. Let’s add a third “N” — this time, the whole of Europe (h/t: Danny Lemieux):
There is one marital breakdown and one abortion in Europe almost every 30 seconds, a report that claims to chart the collapse of family life said yesterday.
In a survey of life in the 27 European Union countries, the Institute for Family Policy said that pensioners now outnumbered teenagers, and more people were living alone.
The report, The Evolution of the Family in Europe 2008, which was unveiled in the European Parliament in Brussels, described the European birth rate as “critical”.
It said that almost one million fewer babies were born in the 27 EU countries last year than in 1980. There were six million more over65s than under14s in Europe last year, against 36 million more children than pensioners in 1980.
The institute said: “Europe is now an elderly continent.” Almost one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion. The marriage rate fell by 24 per cent between 1980 and 2006. Two out of three households have no children, and nearly 28 per cent of households contain only one person.
The report urges national governments to set up a ministry for the family.
That’s kind of “N” squared, isn’t it? Family hasn’t just been damaged, it’s been destroyed entirely. With the government inserting itself as a wedge between man and woman (essentially by emasculating men), and with its ability to infantalize both men and women by making it unnecessary for them ever to grow up and take responsibility either for themselves or for another, Europe has simply disintegrated entirely. It’s citizens are no longer capable of or interested in fulfilling their primary biological functions.
I want to see marriage restored to preeminence in America, not just because I’m a stubborn reactionary, but because I think it’s an absolutely necessary thing for a high functioning society, with a thriving “next” generation. If gay marriage will reignite the excitement about marriage for everyone, then I think gay marriage is a good thing. However, if it devalues marriage, I have a problem.
Fundamentally, I’m a pragmatist, and I don’t think marriage is about true love (which should be available to all), or financial benefits (which should be available to all who wish to partner permanently in a society), or about registration at Williams-Sonoma (which should definitely be available to all). Marriage should be about children: having them and raising them in a way that is best for them and best for the larger society. (Incidentally, as a pragmatist, if gay marriage is a wash, neither helping nor harming a fatally wounded institution, I also think citizens, not courts, should be in favor of it.)
The most un-rev Jeremiah Wright elaborated today on his various statements during an appearance at the National Press Club. What he had to say was most enlightening since, when he wasn’t prevaricating or deflecting a point with self-deprecating humor, he sounded pretty ugly. Here are a few things that caught my attention:
MODERATOR: What is your relationship with Louis Farrakhan? Do you agree with and respect his views, including his most racially divisive views?
WRIGHT: As I said on the Bill Moyers’ show, one of our news channels keeps playing a news clip from 20 years ago when Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion. [I don't really know if the Right Rev. is capable of understanding this, but Zionism is not a religion, it's a political movement. If Farrakhan referred to something as a "gutter religion" he was making an antisemitic statement about Jews. And since I doubt that Wright is enough of a fool to be this confused, Wright is too, and he's hoping that in this bizarre cascade of words, no one will notice.]
And he was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter is being vilified for, and Bishop Tutu is being vilified for. [Poor Wright. He just doesn't understand why people should be vilified if they keep standing up and saying that Persians, Arabs and Muslims (separate but overlapping groups) are within their rights to (a) state their intention to destroy Israel entirely and (b) take whatever steps they can, from killing one child at a time to building nuclear weapons, to bring that goal to fruition. Whether those sentiments come from Carter, the rabidly anti-Israeli UN, Farrakhan or Wright, they're utterly reprehensible and completely antisemitic.] And everybody wants to paint me as if I’m anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago.
I believe that people of all faiths have to work together in this country if we’re going to build a future for our children, whether those people are — just as Michelle and Barack don’t agree on everything, Raymond (ph) and I don’t agree on everything, Louis and I don’t agree on everything, most of you all don’t agree — you get two people in the same room, you’ve got three opinions.
So what I think about him, as I’ve said on Bill Moyers and it got edited out, how many other African-Americans or European-Americans do you know that can get one million people together on the mall? [So could Hitler, Mao, and Stalin. It doesn't make them admirable. I'm not actually saying Farrakhan is as bad as those guys, although he definitely espouses their beliefs. I'm just saying that the mere fact that someone can be a demagogue doesn't make him virtuous.] He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century. That’s what I think about him.
I’ve said, as I said on Bill Moyers, when Louis Farrakhan speaks, it’s like E.F. Hutton speaks, all black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen. [Same demagoguery point I made above.]
Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan anymore than Mandela would put down Fidel Castro. Do you remember that Ted Koppel show, where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro was our enemy? And he said, “You don’t tell me who my enemies are. You don’t tell me who my friends are.” [In other words, Castro is another one whom Wright admires. He has no moral center. Whoops. Strike that. He does have a moral center: The enemy of my enemy is my friend seems to be his view. Since he hates America, despite his six years of military service, anyone who hates America too is a good guy.]
Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn’t make me this color. [This whole string is peculiar. Last I looked, since the Civil War, no one in America, regardless of color, has been putting blacks in the chains of slavery. Even more interestingly, is Wright actually saying here that being black is a bad thing, akin with slavery? Certainly the parallel structure he employs indicates that he believes being black is bad, and that ones enemies visit that curse upon one.]
Also fascinating was Wright’s explanation of what he meant about the difference between him — as Pastor — and Obama — a politician. Considering how well Obama professes to know Wright, given their 20 year long pastoral association, Wright’s allusions to Obama’s honest (or lack thereof) are worth noting:
MODERATOR: What is your motivation for characterizing Senator Obama’s response to you as, quote, “what a politician had to say”? What do you mean by that?
WRIGHT: What I mean is what several of my white friends and several of my white, Jewish friends have written me and said to me. They’ve said, “You’re a Christian. You understand forgiveness. We both know that, if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected.” [In other words, says Wright, on the Left we all understand that you have to lie to the American people and hide your real viewpoints in other to get elected.]
Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls. [Again, he's saying that Obama is lying because that's the only way he'll get elected.] Preachers say what they say because they’re pastors. They have a different person to whom they’re accountable.
As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I’m still going to have to be answerable to God November 5th and January 21st. That’s what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do. [Obama lies.]
I am not running for office. I am hoping to be vice president. [If you listen to the live broadcast, the very receptive audience screams with laughter at this point.]
I’m not going to dissect any more. It was rather sickening to listen to him. The bile, illogic and dishonesty that flows from him made me feel really bad.
Apropos the fact that Wright’s mental perambulations are really horrible for Obama, some are wondering whether Wright, either out of spite because Obama shunned him or out of avarice because there’s money somewhere, is trying to line himself up with the Clinton faction. If that’s the case, Shakespeare couldn’t have done any better with a plot of ego, avarice, and treachery.
The wildly funny thing about all this is that, because the “non-racial” Obama has managed to back himself into a corner where he is clearly the black candidate, the Democratic party pooh-bahs are supporting him in trickles and floods, despite his falling numbers, because they can’t afford to alienate their single most reliable voting block: African-Americans.
Some months ago, the British papers were filled with the story of Shannon Matthews, a little girl who vanished from her home in West Yorkshire, sparking a huge manhunt. She was eventually found, 24 days later, at the home of her stepfather’s uncle. The big shocker, though, was the fact that both her stepfather and mother were later arrested, the former for child porn, the latter for interfering with the investigation (a bunch of sisters, cousins and aunts were arrested on these same grounds).
The Daily Mail found interesting the plethora of criminals in this one family and did a little investigation. It discovered that the family was descended from solid yeoman stock — never high class, but not the dregs of society either. Now, with the complicity of Britain’s vast welfare system, the family has descended into criminal chaos:
Our own researches have identified scores of her relations, living and dead, going back five generations to the thriving Dewsbury of the 19th century.
The yeoman surnames – Drake, Bell, Lamb, Asquith, Shepherd – suggest they could be traced back, somewhere in England at least, for several centuries before that.
What emerges is a fascinating, if bleak, pattern of gradual social disintegration. It surely resonates with what is happening in many other Northern, white, lower working-class communities. An epoch has passed.
Karen Matthews is a striking figurehead for this generation.
She has never been in regular work yet receives £400 a week benefits, having had seven children by five different men.
Her forbears, though, were the footsoldiers of industrial Britain. Some of her parents’ generation even worked in the last factories, mines and mills – relics of West Yorkshire’s status as an economic powerhouse.
Today, heavy industry has moved on to other, cheaper and more productive parts of the globe. Only 40 people are now employed in weaving in the whole of Dewsbury.
The original workforce and their descendants, however, have been left marginalised, often suspicious of growing immigrant communities. Indeed, 13 per cent of Dewsbury’s population is of Asian origin – who bring their own traditions and entrepreneurial drive.
Other traditional foundation stones have also shifted.
The powerful family cornerstone of marriage no longer exists, nor in many cases does the nuclear household and the maternal bond.
The result has been disastrous.
At least 13 of the children in the latest generation related to the Matthews family do not live with their mothers, for one reason or another. Several are being looked after by others.
One was put out for adoption. Another is serving a life sentence in prison.
You can read the rest here.
There is no doubt, of course, that the history of humanity is of people going up and down in their fortunes. What’s striking here is of how closely the downward trajectory seems to be connected to a welfare state that substituted the government for breadwinners. In other words, it strikingly parallels what happened in the African-American community, with the coming of welfare. Bert Prelutsky summarizes that well:
Back in the 1960s, the Democrats went in for social engineering in a big way. They concentrated particularly on black Americans. One of the first things they did was to increase welfare, but only to those homes that didn’t have men living in them. That not only created dependency on the part of black women and children, but, inevitably, led young blacks to grow up without male authority figures around to keep them in line. The results weren’t too great for the grown-ups, either. Single black mothers, more often than not uneducated teenagers, were faced with the prospect of trying to raise and discipline unruly young guys; while far too many black men became as rootless and irresponsible as their offspring.
Nobody should be too surprised that blacks, whose families, in the main, used to be even more stable than whites during the 30s and 40s, are now in shambles. Half of teenage blacks drop out of high school before they graduate, and 70% of black babies are born to unmarried females.
I guess you could say that families come and families go, but government is forever.
It turns out that Barack Obama might have been on to something with his bitterness speech. In case you’ve forgotten, he said:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, a lot of them — like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they’ve gone through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Where Obama got it wrong was that he focused on the wrong bitter people. Down in Los Angeles, in the gun-ridden, crime-ridden, gang-ridden communities that taught that sprawling City, people are indeed getting increasingly bitter, although it’s a liberal government’s refusal to enforce the law that’s raising their ire:
When Jamiel Shaw Sr. stood up last week to call for a change in Special Order 40, it touched an already raw nerve in the black community. Shaw’s son, 17-year-old star football player Jamiel Shaw II, was gunned down within shouting distance of his house. The suspect, 19-year-old Pedro Espinoza, is an alleged gang member and an illegal immigrant. Special Order 40 has prevented law enforcement from probing the immigration status of some suspects and deporting criminals with dispatch. Even if Special Order 40 were modified, there’s no guarantee that Jamiel would still be alive, but to a community convinced that Latino-on-black racial violence is on the upswing, it’s still a matter of simple justice.
And that’s true despite the statistics Police Chief William Bratton (seconded by the Los Angeles Times) piled on the public table in recent weeks, numbers that back up the claim that, with the exception of young Shaw and a handful of other cases, the majority of the killings of blacks are by other blacks, not Latinos. That won’t ease black fears that some Latino gangs are bent on wiping them out.
The author of the above op-ed goes on to say that African-Americans are right to feel that this is all a racist thing, with the Hispanics trying to kill them because they’re black and the City government ignoring them because they’re black. As to the first point, when one considers that gang warfare has been a fixture of American urban life practically since there were American urbs, I doubt that’s the case. That is, the Hispanic gang members are gunning blacks down, not because they’re black, but simply because they’re the other gang, and this is a pure turf battle.
I also doubt that there is racism in the City’s response. Instead, I suspect the City’s unwillingness to acknowledge black concerns this has more to do with a City wedded to a stupid liberal policy that makes it a haven for illegal immigrants (because liberals know that “no person is illegal.”) To me, this snotty liberal attitude is evidenced by the fact that Bratton assured blacks that the policy is not a problem, since blacks are killing each other faster than Hispanics can. In other words, what you’re seeing here isn’t racism run amok; it’s liberal politics and identity politics run amok.
In any event, I think the African-Americans in LA have the perfect right to be bitter that the City of Los Angeles does nothing about an influx of criminals into their communities, criminals who should be deported instantly before they get guns in their hands and victims in their sights.
Here’s the headline: “Judge admits mistake in kicking whites out of court.” Upon reading that headline, I assumed that this was going to be the familiar story about some crackpot anti-white judge who issued a ruling, a la the Jeremiah White mode of thinking, that blacks can’t get a fair trial with whites around. Instead, the story is much deeper and sadder.
The story behind the headline is about an African-American judge in Georgia named Marvin Arrington who is profoundly disturbed by the fact that, in his criminal court, “I came out and saw the defendants, and it was about 99.9 percent Afro-Americans.” He wanted to give these defendants a lecture — not a “the white man is out to get you lecture,” but a “you’ve got to start taking control of yourselves” lecture. He was embarrassed, however, to give that lecture with whites present:
“I didn’t want them to think I was talking down to them; trying to embarrass them or insult them; be derogatory toward them, and I was just saying, ‘Please get yourself together,’” Arrington said.
To help these defendants listen to him without becoming humiliated by having successful white people around, the judge dismissed the whites and gave the lecture. He’s since realized that the lecture would have benefited everyone or, at least, not offended anyone:
“In retrospect, it was a mistake,” Judge Marvin Arrington told CNN. “Because my sheriff said to me, ‘Judge, that message should be given to everybody’ — ‘Don’t violate the law, make something out of yourself, go to school, find a role model, somebody that will help you advance your life.’”
He said he would open his court doors to everyone on Thursday and “I am going to give the same identical speech: ‘You’ve got to do better.’”
Judged Arrington’s handling of the situation may have been a bit inept, but he has the right idea: he saw a problem, and he addressed it, not with speeches about victimhood and demands, but with a speech about personal responsibility, made to those who need to hear it most. Good for him! I sincerely hope that he doesn’t experience any career fallout from this particular decision.
At American Thinker, James Edmund Pennington definitively explodes the myth that Obama is a “post-racial” candidate. In other words, Geraldine Ferraro had it absolutely right when she said, without any of Pennington’s careful analysis, that Obama ascended as quickly as he did solely because of his race. And as Pennington points out, that ascension must now be enshrined, solely because of his race:
The current agony of the Democratic Party, which grows more acute every day, is laden with an unspoken truth. As the unending Clinton-Obama struggle drags on, the core unutterable reality for Democrats is simply this: because of the composition of the Party’s domestic coalition, its continued electoral viability makes absolutely necessary perpetual capture of 90+% of the black vote.
Because of this grim fact — of the Party’s own making — the Clinton/Obama fight is over. Obama has won, and every leading Democrat knows it. In short, because of his race, Obama must be awarded the Democratic nomination. So much for the myth of America’s first major post-racial candidate.
Under no reasonably foreseeable set of future developments, including the possibility Obama’s exposure as a fatally compromised candidate, can Obama be denied the nomination. Doing so would subject the Democratic Party to the unacceptable risk that it would alienate its most dependably monolithic voter bloc. Hence, the daily gnashing of teeth by Party elders and the demand, which grows more hysterical each day, that Clinton concede a contest that at present is nothing more than a hard fought stalemate.
Without keeping focused on the Democrats’ self-chosen demographic cul-de-sac, the growing demands for Clinton’s withdrawal would be inexplicable, indeed, outrageous.
You can read the rest — and you’ll be happy you did — here.
Many have commented on the fact that Barack Obama, both in his race speech and in interviews he gave after the speech, threw granny to the wolves, painting the woman who raised him, not only as a racist but, negatively, as a “typical white person.” The way in which he did this was to say that it was irrational for her to express a fear of black men walking by her on the street. The problem for Obama was that this “white think” concept was almost immediately destroyed when the Way-Back machine revealed that Jesse Jackson said precisely the same thing.
Now Randall Hoven has crunched the numbers to show that this is not the irrational fear of a racist “typical white person” (or of Jesse Jackson) but, sadly, the rational fear of people living in a society in which black men are disproportionately responsible for murders. The only problem I can see with Hoven’s number crunching is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that the people who should be really afraid of black men on the street aren’t “typical white” people, but typical black people, who I believe account for the largest number of victims.
There is a serious problem here, but it isn’t Obama’s effort to stereotype whites. The problem is that the last 40 years have seen a system in which black Americans, in disproportionately large numbers, turn to serious crime, crime that frightens whites and truly victimizes blacks. Obama’s prescription is what it always is coming from the Left: throw more taxpayer money at the problem. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that it might be time to try entirely different solutions, rather than endless efforts to refinance the old, failed solutions.
I found myself in the car yesterday afternoon listening for perhaps the 30th time to an episode of Avatar being played on the car DVD. I happen to think that Avatar is a rather unusually good kids’ show. Since this was routine car pooling, with the same passel of tired and cranky kids getting shlepped down the same stretch of freeway for the millionth time, I had no problem with stopping the bickering by directing their attention to the small DVD screen hanging from the car’s ceiling. For me, though, never having seen the show, but just having heard it over and over and over again, the whole experience was somewhat mind-numbing.
A numb mind is a wandering mind, and that’s what mine started to do. I started to think about the charges Wright made against America and white Americans — charges that many, many blacks seem to believe are true. The response white America has had to the revelation about these charges is that they are, in fact, not true. That while black Americans might once have been the victims of systemic government discrimination, that is no longer the case. Instead, America is, in fact, a land of opportunity for blacks as well as everyone else. Indeed, everything I’ve since Wright’s attitudes went public has basically said to blacks: “You’re wrong, so get over it.”
My thought experiment went a different way: What if, instead of saying to blacks that their underlying premise is wrong, we instead said that they’re right — That it’s absolutely true that, despite more than 40 years of Johnson’s Great Society, everything they complaint about is true? America does still systematically discriminations against black America, and it is accurate to call it the US of KKK. You — American black citizens — are also right that, more than 40 years after the Civil Rights movement, ordinary Americans are seething with racial hostility to blacks. (Keep in mind that I don’t agree with these statements; this is a thought experiment.)
In this universe, which embraces the belief that the USA is irremediably hostile to blacks and that nothing she has done has operated to their benefit, African Americans nevertheless continue to demand that the American government keep funding and expanding the same programs that the blacks insist have failed. For example, in his race speech, having accepted as true Wright’s complaint that African Americans are still getting the short end of the stick, Obama again demands government intervention:
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed.
Not just with words, but with deeds — by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.
Of course, Obama’s speech does not acknowledge one fact: Americans have been investing in school and communities, have been enforcing civil rights laws, have been making the criminal justice system more equal, and, through 40 years of quotas, affirmative action, anti-discrimination rules and public education, have been providing generations of black Americans with ladders of opportunity. In other words, for the past 40 years, Americans have been doing the opposite of saying, “Hell, no! We’re not going to pass any laws or do anything that might theoretically benefit African Americans.”
Nevertheless, despite more than 40 years of passing laws that are intended to affect American blacks, the same laws that Obama continues to demand we pass, Wright and other African-Americans have concluded that we’ve failed dismally in all these efforts. No matter what we do, we’re so deeply tainted and racist that nothing changes. I mean, countries rise and fall in 40 years, but we still haven’t been able, as a nation, the fix the black communities’ problems.
Given what black Americans see as America’s pathetic failure to correct the intrinsic problem of anti-black racism, which translates into black failure, what do you think black America should do? As I noted above, the current attitude from the Left now (and that is the side most black Americans embrace) is that black problems are America’s fault, so it is up to America to continue to try to fix them with more government problems. To date, however, by the blacks’ own testimony, America has proven woefully inept at fixing them.
It seems to me that, in the real world, if you give someone responsibility to fix a problem, and they fail repeatedly and overwhelmingly, then you start looking for new solutions. You don’t just say, “Well, I’ll just sit here in a mess of your making and wait for you to figure it out while I suffer.” Wouldn’t it make more sense to say, “You created the mess, but you’re obviously incapable of fixing the mess. I’d better do it myself.” I do not understand why the black community, having weighed us (white America) and found us wanting, continues to demand that we save it. Even conceding that everything wrong with the black community is indeed our fault, it’s become pretty apparent that we (that is, white Americans) are not fixing the problems. The profound irony, of course, is that the lack of fixes doesn’t affect us very much at all — but it affects black Americans terribly.
If things are as bad as Wright and his fellow travelers say, African Americans should be rejecting the Obama message of more government, rather than embracing it. After all, by their own testimony, the government is a failure. It has not done what it set out to do. African Americans should be demanding an entirely new approach, rather than more of the same. That they’re not making such demands can lead us to a couple of entirely different conclusions. The first is that, when it comes to the subject of government programs and race, African Americans fall within the jocular definition of insanity, which has one doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. The second, alternative conclusion, is that things have, in fact, improved under the government’s aegis, and that African Americans are worried that, if they concede that this is true, white America will say “Great, the job is done,” and then turn off the spigot.
The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that, if blacks are correct that America has been incapable of correcting the horrors it visited upon them, despite more than 40 years of trying, blacks must start taking care of themselves, rather than waiting another 40 years for us to get it right. What they’re doing right now, with a vengeance, is cutting of their collective noses to spite their collective faces. It may be all our fault, but they’re the ones suffering as they passively wait for us to figure out how to get it right.
The AP is diving into damage control, assuring us that, not only is Pastor Wright just your ordinary black improvement activist, but his style of rhetoric is dying away anyway:
As shocking as they may be, the provocative sermons of Barack Obama’s pastor come out of a tradition of using the black church to challenge its members and confront what preachers view as a racist society. Yet while the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racially tinged messages still resonate in some black churches, evidence also suggests his style is receding into the past as civil rights-era pastors retire. Sermons in other congregations now focus less on societal divisions and more on the connection between spirituality and a materially prosperous life.
Also, AP assures us, Wright, who just happens to have the largest church in his denomination (so it’s not dying out any time soon) is all about the Bible and social welfare:
More than three decades ago, Wright took over a small, demoralized congregation on Chicago’s impoverished South Side and built it into the largest church in the liberal, mostly white United Church of Christ.
At the 8,000-member Trinity United Church of Christ, the slogan “Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian” has meant preaching about divestment during South Africa’s apartheid era. It has also meant fighting poverty, homelessness and AIDS at home. The religious message has been anything but watered down, with Wright dissecting Bible passages line-by-line.
Nor is black liberation theology anything about which you should worry, since it’s just another way of dealing with the all American battle to do away with the evil that is racism:
The pastor’s experience is grounded not only in the civil rights movement, but also in 1960s black liberation theology, which applies the Christian Gospel to contemporary struggles against race-based oppression.
I guess the AP religion writer forgot to read about the way in which black liberation theology describes itself:
James Cone, the most prominent theologian in the “black liberation” school, teaches that Jesus Christ himself is black. As he explains:
Christ is black therefore not because of some cultural or psychological need of black people, but because and only because Christ really enters into our world where the poor were despised and the black are, disclosing that he is with them enduring humiliation and pain and transforming oppressed slaves into liberating servants.
Theologically, Cone’s argument is as silly as the “Aryan Christianity” popular in Nazi Germany, which claimed that Jesus was not a Jew at all but an Aryan Galilean, and that the Aryan race was the “chosen people”. Cone, Hopkins and Wright do not propose, of course, to put non-blacks in concentration camps or to conquer the world, but racially-based theology nonetheless is a greased chute to the nether regions.
Biblical theology teaches that even the most terrible events to befall Israel, such as the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, embody the workings of divine justice, even if humankind cannot see God’s purpose. James Cone sees the matter very differently. Either God must do what we want him to do, or we must reject him, Cone maintains:
Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community … Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love. 
In the black liberation theology taught by Wright, Cone and Hopkins, Jesus Christ is not for all men, but only for the oppressed:
In the New Testament, Jesus is not for all, but for the oppressed, the poor and unwanted of society, and against oppressors … Either God is for black people in their fight for liberation and against the white oppressors, or he is not [Cone].
While the AP’s watered down version of the Christianity Obama has been absorbing for 22 years shouldn’t worry any reasonable person too much, the movement’s own beliefs and goals should worry a great deal those who envision a MLKing-esque society in which black and white walk are considered equal and given full equality of opportunity.Understanding the whole black liberation theology thing makes me less sanguine about the AP writer’s reminder that:
Often lost in the attention paid to Wright’s fiery sermons is the typical conclusion, Hopkins said—that despite all obstacles, you are a child of God and “can make a way out of no way.”
As far as I can tell, I’m not a child of God. You are, if you’re black, but I’m not, because I’m white and, worse, Jewish. No comfort there, Mr. AP religious writer.
Anyway, the real problem lies with white people, who are so immature and sensitive that they just don’t cope well with being abused, insulted and threatened:
While Trinity United Church of Christ is more Afrocentric and slightly more political than most black churches, “even conservative black churches talk about racism in a way that many whites would find wounding or offensive,” said Gary Dorrien, a religion professor at Columbia University in New York.
“Most white Americans have a very limited capacity for dealing with black anger or acknowledging their own racial privileges,” Dorrien said. “Wherever white people are dominant, whiteness is transparent to them. In black church communities, dealing with that problem is an every-week issue.”
Aaack! Gotta get the kids. I don’t know if I’ll be able to revisit this post today, but I trust that, if you check out the AP story, you’ll discern more of the same after the point at which I left off.
In that portion of the speech in which he refused to disavow Wright by comparing Wright to his grandmother, Obama essentially “forgave” his grandmother for the “sin” of being worried about seeing black youths on the street as she walks by. I kind of ignored that attribution when I said Grandmother Obama never bad-mouthed anybody. The reason for this blind spot on my part — when Obama was trying to call her a racist, but a forgivable one, was that I viewed her concerns that as a factual reality, not a racist emotion. It turns out that I can be forgiven for feeling as I do — that is, for not understanding that Obama was calling his own grandmother a racist because of this worry — since it turns out that Granny Obama and I are not the only ones who share that concern. Someone else does too, and you may be surprised who it is.
In my look-see at Obama’s speech, I sort of backed my way into saying that Obama’s speech basically just gives credence to the black sense of victimhood. Thus, at the end, I noted that I could bored and tuned out because Obama started bloviating about the same old cycle of poverty and victimhood which, I pointed out, is a mantra that precisely coincides with the decline of the black middle class, which was just pulling itself out of the abyss into which centuries of slavery had plunged it. Trust Jonah Goldberg, who wrote his column when Barack Obama hadn’t even given his speech, to hone in precisely on the problem with the speech (emphasis mine):
Barack Obama will reportedly give a major speech this morning at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, addressing the controversy about his extremist pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
Obama needs to do two things. First, he needs to make it incandescently clear that Wright doesn’t speak for him in any meaningful way. If he won’t do that, his campaign is a fraud and he is not qualified to be president.
Second, he needs to explain to black America why Wright’s views are so poisonous.
Obama righteously deplores “divisiveness.” And yet he literally worships at the altar of division. He wants to transcend race, but his black nationalist church and his liberation theology pastor consider race permanent and central issues.
Obama claims that he’s a different kind of politician, but his “repudiation” of Wright last week is traditional pol-speak and nothing more. To listen to Obama, you’d think he was the only person in Chicago not to know that his minister is a hatemonger. Either Obama is the worst judge of character in living memory or he’s not the man he’s been portraying himself as.
Or there’s a third option. Perhaps Obama didn’t hear Wright’s bilious rhetoric because it blended in with the chorus around him. This is the fact that Obama really needs to address if the “Obama movement” is about more than getting the junior senator from Illinois elected.
A 2005 study by the Rand Corp. and the University of Oregon found that nearly half of African Americans say they believe that HIV is man-made. More than 25% think that it’s a government invention, and one in eight say it was created and spread by the CIA. Just over half believe that the government is purposely keeping a cure from reaching the poor.
And please, spare me the rationalization that blacks have reason to be conspiratorial. Doubtless there’s truth to that. But that doesn’t make the conspiracy theories any more true or any less destructive.
In the 2005 issue of Social Science Quarterly, Sharon Parsons and William Simmons tried to explain why conspiracy theories like these persist in the black community. Part of the answer, they concluded, is that black politicians have no interest in dispelling them. Paging Sen. Obama!
Obama preaches unity. Well, real unity requires real truth-telling and the ability to tell right from wrong, and Wright from right.
Yeah, what he said! Goldberg neatly anticipated precisely what I found wrong with Obama’s speech, which is that it criticizes Wright’s more hate-filled rhetoric, even while giving continued credence to the pathologies that underlie it.
As is always the case with me for any speech, especially an Obama speech, I’ve opted to read it, not listen to it, so that I can have the best sense of the words themselves, without getting sidelined by someone’s rhetorical style (or lack thereof).
Obama opens by talking about the promise of the new nation’s belief systems, which were compromised by slavery — an accurate assessment. Interestingly, he makes only passing mention of the Civil War, in which hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives so that blacks could be free. As for me, I’ve always seen the Civil War as part of American exceptionalism. We may make mistakes, but we corrected that one with a bloody vengeance.
I also find interesting that Obama, immediately after referring to the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement, frames his candidacy’s purpose as being a part of this civil rights framework:
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
To me, this is part of the Messiah shtick. He’s not advancing himself as President because he’s the best man for the job, but because he, personally, by being some racial fulfillment incarnate, will save us from the last remaining “stains” created by the Founders. I found the preceding paragraph both banal in its phrasing and rather worrying in its implication.
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
He presents himself as the personal embodiment of American racial healing, an idea I find creepy. It’s that personal embodiment shtick that tells me this man takes himself way too seriously.
Obama points correctly to the fact that he’s been tagged as both too black and not black enough. It’s an interesting point because, inadvertently, it highlights that the obsession within the Democratic community has been with his race and not with his substantive virtues: experienced enough? too little experience? too liberal? just liberal enough? too corrupt? no more corrupt than the ordinary politician? less corrupt than Hillary? With the focus on race, no one’s been asking the questions that ought to be asked.
Funnily enough, after twice having set himself up as the living embodiment of racial healing — something he’s done throughout the campaign, along with those vague calls for “unity” — Obama complains that his campaign has been framed in terms of racial healing:
On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap.
Obama also claims that, in the past few days, he condemned in unequivocal terms Wright’s more controversial statements. As this blog and others have pointed out, that’s not true. He’s condemned them in very careful, lawyerly terms, all the while trying to disassociate himself from a man with whom he’s had a long and close relationship. His condemnations have been artful, but hardly unequivocal. He also hasn’t condemned his wife for making more polite statements that are remarkably close in content to Wright’s intemperately worded attacks on the US.
There’s also some very careful lawyerly language in the next paragraph:
For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. (Emphasis mine.)
The question is how did Obama handle these disagreements. Did he, in his own head, say to himself, “Well, I don’t agree with that.” Or did he do more — something he carefully doesn’t answer. Did he challenge Wright in private? He doesn’t say. Did Obama, a public figure, challenge Wright in public? Well, we know he didn’t. Did Obama, a sitting state and federal Senator, publicly disassociate himself from one who prays for America’s destruction? Not only did he not do so, he had Wright as a core member of his campaign team up until last week, when the guy was conveniently flushed down the memory hole. Obama’s “disagreements” can’t have been that strong. He’s lying.
At least Obama makes a straight and true declaration here:
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
I agree with everything that Obama says in the preceding paragraph.
Obama goes on to defend Wright, noting that there is a lot of good along with his tendency to make inflammatory, divisive, cruel, un-American statements. That doesn’t work for me. People with horribly bad ideas can nevertheless have very nice qualities. A KKK-er can be a loving family man and a stalwart of the community, bringing food to the (white) poor. A robber can be a great buddy, and fun to have beer with. At a certain point, though, if someone has true, broad-reaching ideological flaws, you have to take a stand and either say that you agree with or that you don’t agree with those statements. You have to ignore the fact that your friend is charming, or kind, or decent in ways unrelated to this moral center. This holds especially true for someone who, as a US Senator, has sworn allegiance to the United States of America. It’s one thing to recognize ones country’s flaws and to work to improve them. It is quite another thing to make common cause with a religious man who seeks the country’s eternal damnation. One could say that in speech Obama is making precisely the stand I demand (I wouldn’t say it, but one could), but it’s telling that he’s doing so only under duress and when the scrutiny on his 22 year relationship with Wright is becoming too intense to ignore.
Obama’s most important point is his acknowledgment that the black community has within it this radically anti-American strain:
Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
The passage above is also interesting because it contains some typical Obamanations. There’s again that careful disassociation where he notes that, when he talked to Wright, Wright never said anything nasty, as if that removes Wright from the taint of having said such things publicly, where they really count, or removes from Obama the responsibility for being aware of Wright’s views, given how publicly they were stated.
In the same passage, Obama also makes the wonderfully silly statement he can’t disown Wright’s bad views any more than he can disown his white grandmother. That’s utterly stupid. First, he can easily disassociate himself from both. That he doesn’t want to is one thing; that he allegedly can’t is another. Second, his grandmother is a genetic relative and did indeed raise him — and doesn’t seem to have said anything inflammatory about anyone.* Wright is a voluntary association. Third, within this voluntary association, Obama has embraced Wright from top to bottom and manifestly has made no effort to temper what Obama now acknowledges are some bad, destructive and dangerous attitudes that run directly counter to the lovey-dovey speeches Obama has been showering on America for the past year. Obama can disassociate himself from Wright, and always could have done so. He just didn’t want to before.
I found the rest of the speech painfully dull, and don’t want to comment on it anymore. (And I’m sure you don’t want to read anymore comments.) I was turned off by the stuff about cycles of violence and victimhood, all of which don’t work for me (as you know if you’ve read my blog for any length of time). Other immigrant groups have come to America and faced abysmal poverty, vicious discrimination and economic, social and physical abuse, but their travails preceded the culture of victimhood. This had meant that, when things improved, they just got on with it.
I don’t mean by the preceding to denigrate the Black experience in America. It was awful, it was degrading, it was dehumanizing, it was demoralizing, it was abusive, it was unforgivably long-lasting — it was everything that should not happen in a civil, or even marginally civil society. But having said that, it is insane for blacks to hoard the insults of the past in such a way that they are incapable of moving into the future. The last part of Obama’s speech, however, in true liberal fashion, gives them permission to do so — and that operates to their detriment (and his political benefit).
(I’d like to remind you here, as I have before, to read John McWhorter’s book, Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America, which describes the fact that African-Americans after the Civil War were continuously improving their status, as all victim groups have once the worst of the victimization ended, a trajectory that could have been anticipated to have continued with the Civil Rights movement. The self-destruction of the black community, a downward trend that, in some sectors, continues today, coincided precisely with the welfare, victim culture that liberals visited upon blacks immediately in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, and that Obama clearly hopes to keep alive today.)
As for me, I continue to find the man platitudinous, self-involved, evasive, manipulative and I don’t agree with his politics. I am no more impressed with him now than I was before his “historic” speech. If you want a self-styled Messiah who works the ultra-liberal party line, he’s your man. If you want a grounded, experienced politician who is not ultra-liberal, and who doesn’t hang around with, make excuses for and take advice from people who loath you and loath America, you might want to look elsewhere.
*On the point of whether Granny Obama was inflammatory when professing a fear of meeting black men on the street, please read this.
Yesterday, the print news, the blogosphere, and the radio world were filled with stories about the MSM’s sudden discovery that Obama’s spiritual mentor is a very angry man, who speaks hatefully of whites and of the United States of America. The common conclusion: Jeremiah Wright is a racist, and it doesn’t help Obama’s broader reach that he’s been partnered with this man for 20 years and that he refuses to disassociate himself from Wright (although it does reveal a loyalty I find surprising in an opportunist like Obama).
So, do I think Wright is being racist, here? To be honest, no I really don’t. I think he is highlighting some truly egregious truth in the United States while exploiting some legitimate grievances to encourage a victim’s mindset; he’s playing to the cheap seats with some of this, to be sure, but so did Gloria Steinem when she supported Hillary by writing that if Obama were a woman with his resume, he’d never be where he is.
What is going on here is a profound slight-of-hand, or an illusionist’s expert misdirection. You are being told to think you’re seeing one thing, when you’re actually seeing another. Except for the fact that whoever released these tapes has played it, this sermon would not be an example of a “race card” being thrown. It’s a victim card. This is about the Primacy of Victimhood over all else. And frankly, I think if white America falls for this and starts freaking out over Wright’s “racism” then they will be submitting to a HUGE and insidious manipulation by the Clinton team, who, as Instapundit suggests, may reasonably be assumed to have brought this forward.
Both Democrat candidates have been playing victim cards in their turn, for months. Yesterday Geraldine Ferraro upped the ante by playing the gender and reverse-racism victim card.
These are not “racist” or “sexist” gambits being played by Wright or Steinem, but appeals to emotion, and appeals to emotion are too often used to gloss over a lack of substance, or so I have been told by my correspondents on the left, lo these many years, as they accuse the GOP of governing on “fear,” (because terrorism is not a real threat).
I think the Anchoress is on to something here, because this is all about victimhood, but I think she errs when she substitutes victimhood for racism. In the Wright universe (and, by extension, in the Obama universe), I suspect that the two concepts exist simultaneously and feed off of each other.
“Inextricably intertwined” is a legal phrase that is, I think, pretty self-descriptive: it refers to situations in which two causative factors are so tied together that it is impossible for the court to tease out the separate strands. It occurs a lot in attorney’s fees battles, when one side claims huge attorneys fees, arguing that matters both compensable and non-compensable are so intertwined that they can’t be separated, so the attorney should be paid for them all.
I see that same concept operating here, when it comes to modern victim hood and its being yoked to old-fashioned racism. Since the 1960s, as real racism of the KKK variety vanished, a new racism arose. In the old days, blacks were victims of explicit acts of racism, such as “whites only” jobs, restaurants, bus seats, drinking fountains, pools, etc., not to mention the sheer venom rained upon them in ordinary conversation and interactions. The racism was the dominant note, with the victimization being the result.
Nowadays, however, with a few anomalous exceptions, those overt acts are gone. All that is left for the American blacks is a pervasive sense that they’re not getting ahead. As compared to white and Asian Americans, they’re doing less well economically, more of their men are in jail, more of their girls have sexually transmitted diseases, few of them do as well in school, etc. How does one account for these myriad failings?
Because the black establishment is so deeply invested in the Democratic social welfare policies, blacks cannot even consider the possibility that their status results from the fact that liberal government policies, by infantilizing them, makes it virtually impossible for blacks to stand up and succeed. John Doggett, whom the liberals attempted to destroy back in 1998 when he stepped forward to defend Clarence Thomas, understood this:
When I started my career as a legal services attorney in 1972, I thought that liberals really cared about the poor, the oppressed and people of color. Twenty-six years later, I have learned that while some have good intentions, many liberals are closet racists. They claim to be “sensitive, progressive and concerned,” while in reality far too many of them truly do not believe that blacks or Latinos are as smart as they are. In fact, their liberal orthodoxy cannot exist in a world where blacks and Latinos no longer “need” their help.
You can get even lengthier analyses along these same lines from a few other African American writers who look at the soul-destroying culture of enablement emanating from the liberal white establishment: John McWhorter’s Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America and Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America (although I was saddened to learn that, despite his great insights into the damaging effects of the tight relationship between blacks and the Democratic party, he supports Obama); Larry Elder’s Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card–and Lose; and Keith Richburg’s Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa, which describes how blacks in turn use these same enabling concepts to damage Africans by supporting dictatorships.
If you’re African American and are denied a large batch of analytical tools necessary to examine your situation, how then do you explain the fact that blacks, on the whole, are not doing that well in America? If it’s not the fault of Democratic policies, and if you can’t (or won’t) blame yourself, you must be the victim of some nefarious scheme — and that scheme can be only one thing: racism.
This modern victimhood/racism analysis, then, is the mirror image of the reality in the 1960s, when racism was the dominant note, with victimization as the inevitable result. Here, the victimization becomes the dominant note, with the victims backing into racism as the only possible causative agent. From there, it’s easier to keep taking that conclusion to further and further extremes: Because blacks are deeply invested in the Democratic party, which therefore by definition cannot be a contributing factor to racism or victimization, that racism must come from some amorphous “government” — not the same one that demands affirmative action, quotas, welfare, etc., but some evil, secret government controlled by people who are not Democrats, and who therefore must be Republicans.
Mentally inhabiting a logical universe that prohibits investigating or recognizing certain facts, demands false syllogisms that force together two ideas that may have been a pair in the mid-20th century, but that no longer work in harness in the 21st century. For Wright, things aren’t going well, therefore he’s a victim. And if he’s a victim, there must be racism. And if there’s racism, it must be because of evil white conservative men covening in the back rooms of government offices. QED.
(One more thing: if you’ve noticed, as I have, that the entire angry African-American argument seems rooted in realities of the past, not the present, you’re noticing yet another example of the Left’s perpetually regressive take on the world, something I wrote about here, at the American Thinker. The African-American community is, in many sectors, a suffering community. Its problems should be identified and addressed, but that can never happen if “progressive” rhetoric remains stuck in 1963.)
God bless Geraldine Ferraro for pointing out the obvious, which is that a slightly corrupt, vapid (albeit intelligent) neophyte could never have risen as fast and as quickly as he did in politics if it hadn’t been for the fact that he has the skin color the media is looking for in a presidential candidate. Okay, that’s not quite right, because Bobby Jindal has almost precisely the same color, but was ignored to death by the media (something the voters, fortunately, themselves ignored). It’s not just skin color; it’s the correct racial pedigree, and Obama has it.
And thank you to the Wall Street Journal for pointing out that, while Obama claims to be a healer and a unifier, he has spent much of the campaign making his own race an issue, but refusing to let anyone else speak of it — itself a divisive act:
Is it just us, or does Barack Obama seem a mite too quick to play the race card when facing criticism from political opponents?
In recent days, the Obama camp has been demanding an apology from Geraldine Ferraro, the former Vice Presidential candidate and current Hillary Clinton supporter who last week let slip that, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”
Though Ms. Ferraro resigned from the Clinton campaign yesterday, her remarks reveal little more than a firm grasp of the obvious, even if she could have found a less artless way to express herself. There is no disputing that Mr. Obama’s skin color has been a political boon for him to date. And the suggestion that saying so aloud betrays racial animus implies that only the Illinois Senator can discuss the issue of race in regard to his candidacy.
Back in January, the Obama campaign was on similarly shaky ground when it accused Mrs. Clinton of belittling Martin Luther King Jr. by stating that “it took a President” to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mrs. Clinton was stating a fact, not slighting King, and the context in which she uttered the statement made that perfectly clear.
We’re not suggesting that the Obama campaign has never been justified in crying foul over racially tinged remarks out of the Clinton camp. When Bill Clinton gratuitously invoked Jesse Jackson after Mr. Obama won the South Carolina primary, he was clearly trying to define the Senator’s victory in narrowly racial terms.
But for all of Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric about the nation’s need for a post-racial politics that “brings the American people together,” his campaign at times has seemed overly sensitive about race. It also seems to want it both ways. Mr. Obama claims that his brand of politics transcends race, but at the same time he’s using race as a shield to shut down important and legitimate arguments.
As for me, I’d have no problem with a President of any race, color or creed, provided that he (or she) satisfy my requirements for a president: experienced; not corrupt; conservative; and able to recognize that, whether it is engaged in War with Jews, Christians or the West generally, Islam is a dangerous religion that needs to be taken seriously and tamed. I do not want to have foisted upon me a President who is inexperienced, corrupt and ridiculous liberal (with everything that implies), not because people are voting for those qualities, but because people have been flim-flammed into believing that, if they don’t vote for such a man, they will be racists.
Here it is, my first day back from a long-ish vacation, and I’m not finding any blogging inspiration in today’s news. Instead, it’s exactly the same stuff that was in the news when I left: unrest in Pakistan; Hillary’s free-fall; alleged campaign shenanigans from the Hillary camp aimed at the Obama camp; Obama’s problem with Israel and Jewish voters; student unrest in Iran, which is intriguing but, currently, ineffectual; and the usual bad CBS polls trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing Democratic candidates. Ho-hum. Boring. Rather than commenting on things as to which I’ve commented a hundred times before, therefore, I’ve decided to dust off some notes I made weeks ago about about happiness and government. Nothing I’ll say is new, but I still thinks it’s worth thinking about.
You all know, of course, these stirring words from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Emphasis mine.)
Did you know, though, that California has a Constitution that grants to its citizens a distinctly different right when it comes to being happy? Here:
All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. (Emphasis mine.)
Although the words look similar (with “pursuit” and “happiness” showing up in both places in the same sentence), the meanings are spectacularly different. As I understand it, the Founders, with that simple phrase “the pursuit of Happiness,” were saying that Government cannot step in and regulate too closely the decisions that people make with their lives. Government cannot insist that you engage in a certain trade, or marry a specific person, or socialize only with a pre-determined group. Instead, government must stand back so that you can make those decisions about your life that you believe will lead to your greatest happiness. It is up to you (and fate, I guess) whether you do, in fact, achieve success in that pursuit, or whether happiness remains a chimera, forever out of your grasp.
In California, however, the government guarantees that you will not only pursue that happiness but that you will obtain it. The question then becomes, how does a state determine whether its citizens have obtained happiness? As Dennis Prager likes to say in his happiness hour, happiness can vary from minute to minute. When I’m blogging, I’m happy; when I’m folding laundry or summarizing really, really boring depositions, I’m probably not very happy. When I’m riding Soarin’, I’m happy; when I’m plunging backwards into the darkness on Expedition Everest, I’m probably not happy, just motion sick. And then there are those situations when I’m feeling both emotions, such as boredom about standing in line, coupled with happy expectation about the pleasure of an upcoming experience.
Clearly, unless the government has some probe stuck in my brain 24 hours a day, it’s going to be impossible to tell whether I’m obtaining that guaranteed happiness (and the probe would have a challenge when dealing with conflicting emotions). Additionally, since my happiness level probably averages out over a day, a week or month or even a year (with a preponderance of individual “happy” experiences determining whether I’m happy over an extended period of time), such a probe, even if it existed, would be useless.
Given the impossibility of monitoring every individual’s actual happiness quotient, the only thing left for the government to do is to define happiness and then force it on its citizens. A lot of governments, usually socialist or theocratic governments, have tried to do that. They’ve defined happiness in economic terms and in terms of an individual’s relationship to the state. In communist countries, you will be happy because the state has provided you with housing (no matter how abysmal); with food (no matter how unappetizing or limited); and employment (no matter how dangerous, demoralizing or dreary). In religious countries, the government forces you to live according to its religious dictates, and then declares that you are happy because it has enabled you to please God. End of story. The state has defined happiness and then provided it. That your wishes, inclinations and abilities might leave you feeling personally unhappy is irrelevant, because once a state guarantees happiness, it can no longer afford to let the individual provide the definition of what that happiness looks like.
As you probably expected, all of this talk is going to wrap around to encompass this year’s elections and the differing visions of the Left and the Right. Although compassionate conservatism shows bad signs of tipping over into guaranteeing happiness, conservative principles still hew closer to guaranteeing opportunities to pursue happiness. Thus, it holds a greater promise that government will provide security (both at home and abroad) and economic flexibility so as to enable people to do what they want to do. In a weird inversion of the hippies’ promise, it is the conservatives that create the environment in which citizens can “follow their bliss.” Each citizen can define happiness as he wants, whether it’s where the person lives, what he does, how he spends his recreational time, who he chooses as friends, etc.
This is the same principle that appears in the conservative belief that people should have equality of opportunity, although the government (wisely) refuses to guarantee equality of outcome, or even a successful outcome. There was certainly no guarantee in the 1970s, when Steve Jobs was futzing about in a garage, or Bill Gates was dropping out of college, that either would be anything more than a long-haired loser. We benefited from the fact that the State was unable to force them to stay in school or use their skills toward particular forms of employment. Instead, they followed their dreams and, as luck and the capitalist system would have it, they and we reaped a profit from their efforts.
The Left, however, keeps scootching closer and closer to a situation in which government doesn’t create a petri dish within which we can cultivate our own happiness, but actually tries to define happiness. Two examples spring to mind, but I suspect that you can supply more. The first example is the promise of universal health care. The Democrats want to determine what constitutes quality health care for all Americans (what will guarantee us “medical happiness”) and then to bypass the market to impose that vision on all of us. There are a lot of problems with the government approach.
To begin with, as Britain and and Canada keep demonstrating over and over and over again with regard to health care, the government does not end up providing something that guarantees health happiness. Instead, it provides a bare minimum service that leaves a few people happy, and most people resigned to the scraps doled out to them. The rich, of course, opt out entirely.
Moreover, there are indications that not all people want health care. Studies show that, while there are people who are genuinely at economic health care risk (mostly the elderly), there are also people, well-to-do people, who make a conscious decision to opt out of obtaining health care that they could otherwise afford. They’ve clearly decided that the odds are that their health is good and that they can better pursue their happiness by putting their money with an entity other than an insurance company. A 25 year old guy may decide that he’d rather than have a BMW, which he knows will increase his chances with the ladies, than a Blue Cross policy he probably won’t use. He also knows that he will get health care if he needs it, since ERs are barred from turning people away, and he’s willing to take the risk of subsequent bills. This guy might be very unhappy if Hillary coerced him into turning over even more of his money to the government, leaving him healthy (as he probably would be anyway), but driving a used Hyundai — a car that is most decidedly not a chick-mobile.
The second example of the Left defining happiness occurs with Obama’s relentless calls for unity. First off, this assumes that people want unity. As for me, I feel that unity can turn into brainlessness, with people effortlessly coasting along in what may be a dangerous status quo. It is the vigor of the marketplace of ideas, the fact that different ideas rub up against each other and have to defend themselves, that creates energy and quality. If you don’t believe me, look at a government office that doesn’t face competition — it’s slack, a fact that’s very irritating to those people in the office who, by temperament, crave efficiency and effectiveness. People and institutions need rigor to keep themselves polished. (Rigor, of course, is not the same as horrible threats.)
Second, as the above argument indicates, the only way in which one can actually obtain this unity that Obama impliedly promises will make us all happy is for us all to think the same way. That is, unity exists only when everyone is in agreement. But, as with the happiness problem, how do we define agreement? In my family, we all liked Disney World, but I hated Expedition Everest, and my children loved it. Were we unified or not?
On the political side, Obama is careful not to define the unity he insists he is capable of providing, but I’m quite certain that, as with government guaranteed happiness, this promised unity can exist only if Obama can also define the issues about which we will be unified. And if you look at his perfect liberal voting record, the one that makes him the most liberal Senator in government today, I can promise you that his definition of unity (read: happiness) will not match your definition of unity. Indeed, it will probably match the definition of unity only in a few select communities, such as Berkeley, San Francisco, parts of Boston, Austin, and Manhattan.
Obama’s definition of unity won’t even match the ideas of all those African-Americans who now overwhelmingly support him. His idea of unity requires abortion on demand and no school vouchers — but most African-Americans, as Larry Elder reminds us in the wonderful Stupid Black Men: How to Play the Race Card–and Lose are pro-Life and want vouchers. They’re unified behind his being black (aren’t identity politics wonderful?), but they actually don’t support some of his core policies.
Heck, as Elder points out, even Obama himself isn’t unified, playing the race card to black audiences and disavowing it to white audiences. To make a very extreme analogy, in this he is reminiscent of the Arab spokesmen who speak peace to the West in English and, in the next breath, preach Jihad to the Muslims in Arabic. The analogy goes even further in that, just as Western papers listen only to the English pronouncements from these death-seeking Muslims, so too do mainstream American papers listen only to Obama’s “race isn’t a problem” speeches, while assiduously ignoring his more inflammatory pronouncements and affiliations. When it comes to the press, Ostriches and monkeys, the cliched examples of avoidance, spring to mind.
The guarantee of happiness sounds like a wonderful thing. Heck, we all want to be happy. Before you get too excited, though, about the candidate who promises you that happiness (even if he phrases it in soporific terms of “unity”), think long and hard about what government-provided happiness really means. It sounds great in theory, but history and current events show that, when it plays out in fact, they only happy people are the fat-cat bureaucrats who simultaneously define the happiness imposed upon us from on high and, usually, opt out of it themselves, preferring instead to pursue their own happiness. As for me, I’d infinitely prefer living in a country where the government stands aside as much as possible, merely creating situations in which I can make those decisions I believe are most likely to provide me with the happiness I seek.
My post title imagines what I bet a lot of the older generation of Jewish Americans will think when they learn about the latest campaign tactics from the party that knows how to do identity politics. Steve Cohen, whose name is a giveaway as to his Jewishness, is running for reelection in Tennessee’s 9th District. His opponent is Nikki Tinker, whose name is not a dead giveaway but who is in fact black. An African-American minister who does not reside in the 9th District has decided to become involved in the campaign. Here’s his campaign poster, a copy of which ended up mailed to Cohen himself:
Truly, I don’t think either Hitler or Torquemada or the Mufti of Jerusalem or Father Coughlin could have done any better than that in terms of sheer, old-fashioned appeals to antisemitism as a way to manipulate the masses. It is a disgusting piece of work. More than that, Tinker, who is clearly no belle, isn’t lifting a finger to disassociate herself from this vile garbage:
What does Nikki Tinker think about anti-Semitic literature being circulated that might help her unseat 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen in the Democratic primary next August?
A fair question, which Tinker declined to answer this week after a flier stating that “Steve Cohen and the Jews Hate Jesus” began circulating in Memphis.
The question goes to the character of the woman who wants to represent the 9th District, and 9th District voters deserve an answer. But Tinker declined to return a phone call about the flier.
“Of course we wouldn’t have anything to do with that,” said Tinker spokesman Cornell Belcher, referring to a flier that has been denounced by the Anti-Defamation League.
” … We’d be interested in denouncing this sort of nonsense as well but, again, we haven’t seen it.”
That’s a great excuse, isn’t it? “I can’t comment on antisemitism as a tool in the political race because I haven’t actually touched the piece of paper on which the antisemitic sentiments are written.” Clearly, this is a woman who takes personal responsibility seriously (and that was meant to be snide, not straight).
This same editorial notes that this is not the first time that Cohen’s not-blackness has been used against him, although it is the first time the antisemitic card has been played in this way:
Inciting tension between African-Americans and Cohen was the aim of several members of the Black Baptist Ministerial Association who took Cohen to task last summer for his support of federal hate crimes legislation. The real motive behind the attack was revealed in later comments by at least one of those involved.
“He’s not black,” said Rev. Robert Poindexter of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, “and he can’t represent me, that’s just the bottom line.”
My first thought when reading this, which is reflected in my post’s title, is that when I was growing up, Jews took very personally the antisemitic sentiments that, I am sorry to say, have long permeated large segments of the African-American community. And they take it very personally for a specific reason, and it’s not because all of us (blacks and Jews alike) are minorities together. It’s because Jews feel that, when blacks began to agitate against Jim Crow, once one got outside of the black Christian communities, it was Jews who took up that banner just about as aggressively as anyone could. Jews threw themselves into the Civil Rights movement and it pains them beyond belief that those whom they view as the beneficiaries of their efforts and sacrifices have turned on them in such an exceptionally nasty way.
Aside from being visible evidence of the black/Jewish schism in American, one that continues to mystify Jews, the flyer also shows the reductio ad absurdem of identity politics. Although we do not live in a theocracy or a race-ocracy, that’s precisely how this Democratic race is being played out. If you’re black, don’t bother your pretty little head with difficult thoughts about Tinker’s politics, beliefs and capabilities, as opposed to Cohen’s. Instead, rest easy and vote for Tinker because she’s black and Christian and against Cohen because he’s white and Jewish.
This type of electioneering tactic is not only disgusting, it’s demeaning to the African-Americans who are the intended recipients of this type of garbage, since it circumvents any appeals to their higher reasoning. It’s also unsurprising and, in that regard, the Captain sums it up about as well as can be said:
Once again, the Democrats find themselves in the position of playing racial, ethnic, and now anti-Semitic politics. We have seen it at the grassroots level now, and at the highest levels of the party, especially from the Clinton campaign. Small wonder that a relatively low-level officeseeker feels comfortable in using these tactics in 2008, given the example Bill Clinton has provided already this year.
We’ve [meaning “conservatives” listened to insults from Democrats for years for far less than this.
What I have to say is that, if you select chickens solely by the color of their feathers, and without regard to their egg-laying capabilities, when those chickens come home to roost, you’re going to end up with a visually impressive coop that produces nothing but chicken poop.